Failed Leadership

There are many elements to a campaign. Leadership is number one. Everything else is number two.”

Bernd Brecher

 “At a time when leadership is more crucial than ever to our very survival, there is a shortage of qualified people to lead corporations.”

James F. Bolt 


The headline declared the obvious: “MARKETS SEEK LEADERSHIP.”

That was the front page banner recorded the day after the Dow Jones industrials posted their 6th biggest point decline in history. Reeling from the first ever downgrade of our country’s AAA credit rating, the stock market buckled under the weight of a European crisis and the threat of a double-dip U.S. recession, giving up 5.5% of its value in a single day. The hemorrhaging has yet to stop as the DJIA is currently down more than 15% from the 2011 high.

On both sides of the Atlantic, the economic and political turmoil of the past week has sparked cries for those in power to step up and lead. But the fear spreading across Europe as well as the U.S. is that not only are our economies teetering, but our political leaders are ineffectual – or worse, incapable. “The market’s looking for leadership and leadership seems to be lacking” observed one financial expert. The analyst continued, “I’d like to see some true leadership…markets can stand bad news, but they hate uncertainty.”

Any organization, whether for profit or non-profit, depends on effective leadership to provide both short-term and continuing success. Every organizational issue, every management decision that is either implemented or postponed, is ultimately a product of leadership. Find an organization achieving excellence and you will find leadership effectiveness. Find failure and you will likely find leadership failure as well.

All around us people are searching for leaders as we instinctively seek them out and recognize the necessity for quality leadership in all areas of life. But despite our need for genuine leadership, throughout society we suffer from a leadership void. It seems that regardless of the direction in which we turn, there is a lack of principled, devoted, committed leaders. Whether the arena is politics, business, education or religion there all too often exists a leadership vacuum and it appears as if the true leader is more of a dream than a reality. The leadership landscape looks desolate and barren and even a casual observer wonders, “Where have all the leaders gone?”

Warren G. Bennis, founder of The Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California sounded the alarm when he stated that we suffer from “…a leadership crisis in most of our institutions. The leadership crisis will probably not become the basis for a best-seller or a blockbuster movie, but in many ways it is the most urgent and dangerous of the threats we face today, if only because it is insufficiently recognized and little understood.” Bennis continued: “It is the paradox of our times that precisely when the beleaguered survivors in leadership positions feel unable to summon up the vestiges of power left to them; we most need people who can lead.”

“The death of leadership is apparent throughout society. No matter where we turn, we see a severe lack of faith in the leadership of our schools, religious organizations and governments. To paraphrase a Business Week article, if Martians descended someplace in the United States and demanded that we take them to our leaders, we would have to think twice about where to take them.”

Those in the arenas of business and industry readily recognize the great need for leadership, but this leadership crisis is not limited to corporate or commercial interests, as it touches every aspect of life, extending even to religion. Pollster George Barna has written: “The church is paralyzed by the absence of godly leadership. We see millions of people busily engaged in meaningless activity in a vain attempt to find purpose, direction and comfort, but pitifully mired in chaos and confusion. It is neither the condition God intended for us, nor the necessary state of affairs.”

I am convinced that leadership is one of the most critical issues confronting us as we navigate the perilous waters of the third millennium. Yet as we embrace the responsibility and privilege that is ours, we must do so in a fresh manner. We need to revitalize organizations and institutions as we cast renewed visions and purge pet programs. New goals need to be set and priorities reorganized as we encourage those around us to accomplish what is needed in an ever changing world. Yet I also believe that we can meet the challenges presented today, if leaders are dedicated and equipped to meet those challenges by embracing unchanging leadership principles in a fresh, unselfish manner.

Harvey Mackay recounts the story of Philip Pillsbury of the Pillsbury milling family and his example and willingness to do anything on the factory floor: “The tips of three of his fingers were missing, the unmistakable mark of a journeyman grain miller. Philip Pillsbury had an international reputation as a connoisseur of fine foods and wines, but to the troops, his reputation as a man willing to do a hard, dirty job was the only one that mattered and you can be sure everyone was aware of it.”

Only through modeling authentic servant leadership will contemporary leaders effectively and strategically shape the future. It is said of Jesus, “He came to serve, not to be served.” Servant leaders may voluntarily surrender a palace lifestyle complete with all its privileges and perks to serve and lead others. The best, most effective leaders see themselves as servants. You can easily recognize them –they’re missing the tips of their fingers!

Stay the Course,

Dr. Greg Morris

This article is adapted from Greg’s book, In Pursuit of Leadership: Principles and Practices from the Life of Moses. Dr. Greg Morris serves as the founder and president of Leadership Dynamics™, a non-profit corporation committed to the training and development of leaders and their organizations. For more information, visit, or contact  You can follow Greg on Twitter at @LdshpDynamics



One thought on “Failed Leadership”

  1. Great article Greg.

    But I disagree over one point. There is no lack of leadership. Obama is leading us toward the abyss with corruption, lies, indebtedness, and irresponsible actions/inactions. Previous presidential leadership has not been as bad, but it has overall led us to be big spenders without any sense of responsibility for our offspring and their offspring.

    What we need is superior leadership, not bad leadership. Since 95% of all people are followers more or less, they use the value standards implied by the leader’s actions and inactions as how to live their lives. That is leadership and to know that we must understand how followers respond to leadership. If the leadership is corrupt, the followers tend to follow that lead.

    Top-down command and control leadership tends to demotivate, demoralize and disengage people thus leading them in exactly the wrong direction. Jesus used Servant Leadership techniques of loving your neighbor and because of how God made people they respond by acting toward others how they are treated by their leaders.

    Best regards, Ben Simonton

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